The UK’s competition watchdog has launched a merger enquiry into Google’s June 2019 acquisition of data analytics firm Looker for $2.6 billion.
The decision comes two weeks after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said [pdf] that it had “reasonable grounds” to suspect that Google was planning to roll Looker fully into its parent company Alphabet, rather than keep it separate.
In that initial enforcement notice, the CMA said that it suspects “it is or may be the case that arrangements are in progress or in contemplation which, if carried into effect, will result in: (i) Google LLC, including its subsidiaries Jumelles Inc. and Google UK Limited; and (ii) Looker Data Sciences, Inc. (Looker) ceasing to be distinct.”
Google described the move as standard acquisition procedure. A company spokesperson said: “The acquisition of Looker has received regulatory approval in the U.S. and Austria and we continue to make progress with regulators in the UK”.
Looker has a range of competitors, including Tableau, Sisene, Qlik and Domo. Its acquisition was the first major deal of GCP CEO Thomas Kurian’s tenure.
What is Looker?
Looker is a multi-cloud data analytics firm with a 1,700-strong customer base that includes Amazon, IBM, Kickstarter, Sony, Spotify and The Economist. It specialises in providing native support for a wide range of cloud-based analytic databases, particularly Amazon (Redshift, Athena), Google BigQuery and Snowflake.
After the acquisition was announced in early June, Looker CEO Frank Bien hastened to reassure customers that their operational freedom would be supported.
“Looker customers can expect continuing support of all cloud databases like Amazon Redshift, Azure SQL, Snowflake, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Teradata and more,” he told nervous partners and customers at the time.
The CMA had invited relevant parties to comment on the acquisition on December 2. They have until December 20 to make their submissions.
In the meanwhile, the watchdog has determined that the acquisition does indeed create a “relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002”.
It will make a decision on whether to refer the merger for a Phase 2 investigation by February 13. “Except with the prior written consent of the CMA, Alphabet and Google shall not, during the specified period, take any action which might prejudice the investigation, the CMA said earlier this month.
This includes any commercial moves which will:
- “Lead to the integration of the Looker business with the Alphabet business;
- “Transfer the ownership or control of the Alphabet business or the Looker
business or any of their subsidiaries; or
- “Otherwise impair the ability of the Looker business or the Alphabet
business to compete independently in any of the markets affected by the
Without prior written consent of the CMA, Looker’s separate sales and brand identity must be maintained and “sufficient resources [be] made available for the development
of the Looker business on the basis of their respective pre-merger business plans.”